24 February 2011

Skywatch Friday: Storm Across the Valley

As John Denver put it,
"There's a storm across the valley, clouds are rollin' in...:"

And it is beautiful in our little headwater valley of southwest Montana, watching the weather come in from fifty miles away.

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Last weekend we drove down the valley to Missoula to take in a few days of the 10-day long annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. It was fun to stay at Don & Andrea Stierle's new home up The Rattlesnake (they left Montana Tech, taking their high-level research programme to the "mother ship," The University of Montana, but that's another story) and to meet up with Celia Schahczenski for the festival.

The festival centers around the two screens at the old Wilma Theatre (built in 1921):

The Wilma doesn't look like much on the outside and it's not as grand as Butte's Motherlode Theatre or Anaconda's Washoe Theatre, but it is a nice place inside with the usual Rococo touches (although sorely in need of an improved sound system):

We only had a few days and I'm sure there were many other excellent films, but here are a few good selections. The Foodies among us loved the international competition featured in Kings of Pastry:

Artists and former Beatniks went for William S. Burroughs: A Man Within:

 No documentary film fest is complete without a quirky but beautiful selection. For this year at Big Sky, that award went to Steam of Life--"naked Finnish men in saunas speak straight from the heart about life, love, birth and friendship:"

For me and many others (it won the Best Feature prize for the festival), the very best of the lot was This Way of Life, an amazing intimate portrait of a New Zealand family with 6 kids and 50 horses living in an intimate connection with nature. This family -- kids and all -- jump horses over steep banks, ride horses up and down steep rocky slopes, and swim horses across swift rivers. If you love horses, romantic rural lifestyles, and amazing cinematography, SEE THIS FILM! It will be available on NetFlix in the near future.  Wow:

"What do I do for a living? I live for a living."

Moonlight Ski

A week ago, Don & Andrea Stierle hosted a full moon ski party at their cabin at The Moulton. A dozen or so hearty souls turned out, snowshoeing or skiing their way to the cabin from the parking lot a half-mile below. The night began inauspiciously with snow and a heavy cloud cover. After a potluck feast and a cup or two of IPA from the Quarry Brewpub, the sky cleared and moonlight reflected from the snowy hills.

Those more familiar with the trails led without headlamps, followed by a string of bobbing lights behind them:

Some young people on snowshoes can go about as fast as some "old" people on skis!:

MollyTheDog was dwarfed in size by her new friend, a Bernese Mountain Dog, but she more than made up for it with her usual spunk as the two romped around-and-around:

Meanwhile, some kids got a peaceful nap:

All too soon it was time to gather up the leftovers, wake the kids from their slumber, zoom down the trail, and drive home. Everyone slept well that night!


The Moulton: Montana's finest classic cross country ski trails.

18 February 2011

Skywatch Friday: New Clouds on Old Peaks

A cloud mass forms in the morning air over the Highland Mountains south of Butte Montana:

Midwinter Haiku

Signs written in snow

Calligrapher sharpens her brush

Run Dharma painter!

14 February 2011

Biathlon (ski/shoot) Begins

The weather has been cold most nights and I welcome those first few rays of morning sun on the ski trails:

The cold weather makes for slow skiing, even with green or polar wax. I laid out a little Biathlon course with 1.5" black center targets--as you look through the rear peep sight, the target size is designed to fill the circular front sight of a .22 target rifle at 50 feet:

I don't mind skiing a little slowly while carrying an 8 and 1/2 pound rifle slung over my shoulders:

Skiing a bit slow makes for better breath control and better offhand shooting (though it's a bit chilly for the ungloved trigger hand!):

MollyTheDog waits patiently behind the firing line:

We've also had unusually strong winds this winter (the air in the Butte area is usually remarkably still). It makes for lovely cornices on the lee side of west-facing slopes (the deep drift to the right of the tree):

And beautiful beach-like sculpted patterns on the snow:

While skiing or hiking over snow I watch for tracks, whether the usual squirrel, snowshoe hare, fox, etc or the graceful wings of a hawk etched in the snow where the bird of prey stooped to take a hapless mouse:

The Moulton: Montana's finest classic cross country ski trails, and just 15 minutes from Butte America.